From the VolunteerMatch blog! Contributed by Nancy Schwartz of Getting Attention
When it comes to recruiting and motivating volunteers to ever higher and more effective levels of engagement, no organization has its work more cut out for it than New York Cares. As New York City's leading volunteer organization, New York Cares runs volunteer programs for 1,000 New York City nonprofits, city agencies and public schools, enabling more than 50,000 volunteers annually to contribute their time, expertise and energy to a wide array of organizations, addressing critical social needs citywide.
In order to ensure that its massive and complex operation runs smoothly, the staff at New York Cares has spent considerable time developing and refining their volunteer recruitment strategies, whose lynchpin, not surprisingly, is communication. I've spent some time talking with the folks at New York Cares recently and as you'll see below, their strategies can be put to work to boost your organization's volunteer recruitment, engagement and retention rates, no matter your size.
The Challenge In the recent past, New York Cares realized it faced three challenges that limited its ability to grow the base of volunteers serving its nonprofit partners.
1. They needed to raise "activation rates" of attendees who came to learn about New York Cares volunteer opportunities. Only 45% were immediately signing up for an assignment after their informational orientation.
2. They needed to increase the levels of volunteer engagement. The great thing about New York Cares is that it's a one-stop shop for want-to-be volunteers to learn about opportunities to help a broad range of nonprofits, and sign up for a project that has a commitment level of as little as just a few hours.
But New York Cares needed and wanted volunteers to come back again and again for more of the meaningful volunteer assignments they offered. "We needed to increase the average number of projects volunteers completed in order to grow the services we provide to nonprofit partners," says Colleen Farrell, senior director of marketing and communications at New York Cares.
Farrell notes that New York Cares also needs a volunteer team leader for every project they start.
3. They needed to create new leaders. "We wanted and needed a higher percent of our volunteer base to step into leadership roles. Taking a leadership role is the ultimate form of engagement and is critical to our expansion," says Farrell.
What follows is a group of 13 key principles for volunteer communication strategies I've gleaned from my observations of New York Cares' work. I want to thank executive director Gary Bagley and Colleen Farrell for volunteering their time and insights on how they've achieved their success. Where credit is due for brilliant insights and ideas, it is theirs alone; for anything less, I take responsibility. More